It's been a while since I posted so quite a bit to catch up on. Shimla was a bit dull. It was the summer capital of the Raj and is basically an English market town in the middle of India. Complete with amateur dramatics society and YMCA (where we stayed and no, it's not that much fun to stay there). The main thing that marks it out as obviously Indian is a massive statue of Hannuman the monkey god (yes, he of "born from an egg on a mountain-top" fame). Alexandre and I hiked up to the top of the hill, aware of various warnings that the monkeys up there were particularly violent. They sell sticks to hit them with! It all seemed fine until getting right up to the temple when one of the simian so-and-sos jumped on my back to steal my sunnies. Monkey on my back, indeed. Shimla not that exciting altogether and the Bird Sanctuary rates as the worst tourist attraction I've seen on my trip. Even worse than the meteorite crater at Dogubayazit. The bird collection consisted of chickens, geese and ducks and little else besides. More of a European farmyard sanctuary.
So it was off to Rishikesh where the Beatles came to hang out with the Maharishi Yogi. Lots of Asrams and lots of yoga. I signed up for a week-long yoga and meditation retreat at the Phool Chatti Ashram. I had a few days to kill before that. Met up with Mike, Tanja and Ipi again and we all spent a few days wandering around Rishikesh, getting our ears cleaned by an ear cleaner, going white-water rafting (no-one fell in) and various other things.
So then it was off to the retreat. It's a beautiful place, on the banks of the ganges and about 5km out of Rishikesh so quiet. Cold too, but hey it's December on the edge of the himalayas. The days consisted of a 5.30am start, 3 hours of yoga a day, some more meditation (although I'm v glad I did the Tushita course before as it meant I knew what I was doing in the meditation as most didn't), chanting, nose cleaning (pouring water up one nostril and out the other!) and some nice walks in the country-side. Excellent grub - served up by the kitchen staff who just keep coming round offering stuff until you say no: "more vegetable?", "more chapati?" etc. There were two highlights. Firstly dunking ourselves in the Ganges three times (yes, very cold) after chanting "Om Ganga Mai" a few times and making a flower offering. Secondly the fire ceremony where we did more chanting (the same mantra 108 times, one for each god) and burnt wood. All in all quite a good week.
Then I headed back into Rishikesh with Rick, Tucga, Amira and Cora. Went whitewater rafting again, but this time a much longer course. This time I did fall in, mid-rapids. Wicked fun. Other than that basically doing not much in Rishikesh. We all went to the sunset ceremony at the Shiva temple by the Ganges. I could describe it, but I'll stick some photos up when I next get the chance.
I had planned to head down to Delhi yesterday. But, after tempting fate by telling my Ma on the phone that I'd managed to avoid getting sick at all on the trip since Moldova, I found myself laid up in my 'hotel' in Rishikesh for 24 hours. Nothing serious and I'm off to Delhi today. I'll put some photos on this post when I have a bit more time.